We are currently on our last big hurrah, a final family trip through Yunnan and Sichuan Provinces. throughout our travel, I’ve been pushing my personal boundaries. This trip is different because our itinerary is far less determined than usual. We had a flight to Lijiang (Yunnan Province) and a flight home from Chengdu (Sichuan) but the middle is a bit of a black hole. I know, this is how a lot of people travel, but it’s a step outside my comfort zone. There are practical reasons for our loose plan. For instance, some of our activities are weather dependent and we’re here in the rainy season. And then there’s the fact that, after six months of travel and exploration, I’m just flat-out exhausted from travel planning. So we’re winging it.
So far, we’ve been in Lijiang–or rather–the small town of Shuhe Village , just outside Lijiang. On our first full day, we visited an alpine meadow in a valley between two major mountains. We shared a car with another American, Max, who is staying at our hotel and speaks some Chinese.
All the guidebooks warn you that this part of China is chockablock full of locals with creative ways to help you part with your money. Often it’s in the form of “entrance fees.” So there we stood, at the entrance to a big field, where a local lady informed us it would cost 20 yuan. To go walk in a field. But for just 100 yuan, we could rent ponies instead.
It was fun but probably not worth the cost. After the pony ride, we opted to stay in the meadow a bit longer. It was a great place for photographs.
Simon has learned to love being swung through the air. We yell “yi, ar, san” (that’s “1, 2, 3”) and swing him through the air.
After watching us, a couple of Chinese tourists wanted to give it a try. A couple of pretty ladies? Simon was happy to oblige.
Later, we met up with Max and grabbed lunch–an overpriced pot of chicken soup. Bonus: we got to watch them kill and butcher the chicken.
On our next day, we explored Shuhe Old Town and Lijiang Old Town. Both of these areas are special protected areas, but in truth, they’ve been turned into tourist traps. Walking through is a bit like Epcot–the shops are quaint, but you get the sense that they are scrubbed-up, fakey versions of real life. They were worth a day, but I’m pretty much done with Chinese souvenir streets for this decade.
The streets are filled with new, built-to-look-old buildings, all of which are filled with souvenir shops.
Fun thing about the area: the Naxi language uses a pictographic writing system. Like the hieroglyphics of ancient Egypt, it’s not a complete written language but one of the few pictographic systems in the modern world.
The highlight of Lijiang was Black Dragon Reflecting Pool, where we got some more great family photos.
The Bruce Chalet is owned and staffed with perhaps the most generous and helpful employees I’ve ever met in a hotel. They definitely made the trip worthwhile. I can’t say that I really would recommend Lijiang due to the overwhelming touristy feel, but to anyone who is going, I’d strongly encourage them to stay at Bruce’s. It was a peaceful oasis from the crowds and commotion.